Relations of Kohat with Bordering Tribes :: Khyber.ORG

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Border Relations of Kohat

Excerpts from Gazetteer of the Kohat District

All along the Derajat much interest is taken in the passes leading into Independent Territory. The Derajat districts are level and open, and extend to the foot of the low hills that fringe the main Suleman range. These low hills are cleft by numerous streams and torrents whose beds form natural highways leading from the plains into the hill country beyond. They do not as a rule lead anywhere in particular, and very few of them are of any trading importance. Still they are marked geographical features; they all have well known names, and are generally made over to some tribe, which is responsible for their safe custody. The Kohat district is disappointing in the matter of passes. It is itself a jumble of hills and valleys very similar to the country on the other side of the border. Rough footpaths across the hills lead from the British valleys on one side to the Adam Khel and Orakzai valleys to the other. The Khwarra and Zira valleys on the Hasan Khel-Jawaki border, the Shahu Khel valley on the Mishti border, and the Adhmela Dumbaki valleys in Upper Miranzai, gradually lead up into Independent Territory; and there are also two or three gaps near Togh which lead to Shin Dand and Torki of the Jawakis. With these exceptions the passes on the northern border are tracks crossing over low points in the hills. The Kohat pass is only a track improved into a road. The Uhlan pass is another track leading to the Lower Bazoti settlements. There are no other passes to the west of these of any note, either along the Miranzai or the Teri-Khattak border. As regards the latter, all the country on both sides of the boundary line is a waste of low hills and ravines, with here and there a level valley. The Changostha pass leads from the Latammar Thal into this waste tract, but this ravine is itself the boundary between the Khattaks and Waziris, and is not therefore a pass leading into Independent Territory.

Along with this absence of well-marked passes, there is an absence of any clearly defined system of border responsibility. Each tribe is responsible for stolen property proved to have been taken by any of its members or with their aid and connivance. No tribe admits that it is responsible for raiding parties of other tribes passing through its limits. Such responsibility has not infrequently to be enforced, but the hill men always protest. They say that their villages are scattered, and that they cannot be expected to guard the numerous foot-paths which pass through their hills. In the Derajat stolen cattle are tracked to the mouth of a pass, after which the tribe in charge is left to recover the property if it can, but must in any case make good the loss. Along the Kohat border the stony nature of the country generally makes tracking difficult or impossible, and even when cattle can be shown to have entered the limits of a particular tribe, it is a question of general justice and expediency how far that tribe shall be held responsible. Many of the tribes are small, and at certain points of the district the boundaries of several of them are so crowded together that even if tribal responsibility existed, it would often be difficult to bring a case home to any tribe in particular.

The following fragment was written by Mr. Merk, C.S., with the assistance of information supplied by Captain Mason, R.E. Unfortunately Mr. Merk's deputation upon more important duty connected with the delimitation of the Afghan boundary cut short what would, to judge from his admirable notes on the Peshawar, Bannu, and other frontiers contributed to the corresponding volumes of this Gazetteer, have been a very complete and valuable account of the matters:

The Kohat district is bordered by the following tribes, commencing at its eastern extremity and proceeding westwards towards the Kuram valley. First come the Adam Khel Afridis; next to them the various sections of the great Orakzai tribe. Beyond them again lie the Zaimushts. At the western corner of the district it borders on the Kuram valley, which is inhabited by a mixed population consisting of the Turis as the dominant race and of a subject population of Bangash, who live under the protection of, and amenable to, the directions of the Turis. South of them, where the boundary of the district turns back from Thal, and as far as the commencement of the Bannu district, the settlements of the Darwesh Khel Waziris flank the border. The Adam Khel are comprised in the following four sections :

  1. The Galli or Kohat pass Afridis.
  2. The Jawakis who border principally on the Kohat district.
  3. The Hasan Khel whose villages are along the southern frontier of the Peshawar district
  4. The Ashu Khel whose villages are also along the southern frontier of the Peshawar district

The history of our dealings with the Adam Khel Afridis centres almost entirely round the questions connected with the Kohat pass, which runs through the Adam Khel country. It is the direct route from Kohat to Peshawar, and is a line of great military and commercial importance. Since the construction of the railway, however, from Rawalpindi to Khushalgarh on the one side and from Rawalpindi to Peshawar on the other, the importance of the Kohat pass route has gradually decreased. The natural base of Kohat has been transferred from Peshawar to Rawalpindi, and although trade; especially that in salt; intended for Ningrahar and the countries north of the Kabul river, still finds its way through the Kohat pass, yet the closure of the pass would now no longer cause serious inconvenience as it did before the railways were constructed.

At a very early period after the annexation of the Peshawar and Kohat districts troubles commenced in connection with the pass. In the winter of 1849-50 a party of Sappers and Miners were employed in constructing a good road from Kohat to the crest of the pass. In February 1850 they were surprised by a body of Pass Afridis and were driven back to Kohat. This outrage led to a harrying of the pass villages by an expeditionary force which started from Peshawar under Sir Charles Napier. The troops swept through the pass and back again with but little opposition. The settlements of the pass Afridis were destroyed with but little loss, but the tribe continued to maintain an attitude of obstinate hostility. The pass remained closed, and the Government tower at the crest was taken by a sudden attack of a large body of combined Afridis and Orakzais. These offences were followed by a strict blockade of the pass men accompanied by numerous seizures of numbers of the tribe. There-upon in September 1850 the Afridis submitted, and after some time the pass men were re-admitted to their former allowances; but at the same time the Chief of the neighbouring Orakzais was admitted to a share of the responsibilities of the pass, being specially placed in charge of the guard on the crest of the ridge near Kohat. Till 1853 the pass remained open, but the Afridis regarded with much jealousy the share which the Orakzai Chief held in the pass arrangements, and their ill-feeling culminated in October 1853 when they attacked and expelled the Orakzai post on the crest.

The pass was thereupon closed and the Afridis were blockaded. An endeavour was made to hold the crest of the pass by contingents of the Bangash who are settled in the Kohat valley; but it failed owing to the cowardice of the Bangashes, who fled before the first attack of the Afridis. After this an arrangement was entered into by which the Bazoti and Sipahi Orakzai and the Jawaki Afridis agreed to aid the Bangashes in the defence of the Kotal. In the meanwhile the pass Afridis were suffering from a blockade and gave in their submission. Arrangements were then made to divide the allowances for pass responsibility among the Orakzai, the Jawaki Afridis and the Galli Afridis, a small sum also being paid to the Bassi Khel section of the Aka Khel who hold settlements at the Peshawar end of the pass, and these arrangements have proved fairly suitable and worked satisfactorily as a rule since then. During the temporary closure of the Kohat pass at this time efforts were made to open out routes from Peshawar to Kohat leading through the Jawaki country.

They failed, however, owing to the depredations of the Jawakis, who were also guilty of thieving and plundering in the Peshawar district. In November 1853 accordingly an expedition left Peshawar and destroyed the Jawaki villages of Bori in full view of the other sections of the Adam Khel Afridis, who, however, remained strictly neutral. The punishment was severe, and in February 1854 the men of Bori complied with the demands of Government. From 1853 till 1866 the Kohat pass remained open. In the latter year, owing to internal disturbances among the Hasan Khel and the residents of the village of Akhor near the northern mouth of the pass, and to disputes between the Bassi Khel section of the Aka Khel and the Hasan Khel, the pass was closed for about six months till these differences could be adjusted. The Hasan Khel at the same time showed a disposition to give annoyance on the Peshawar border. Preparations were made to chastise them, on which the Hasan Khel immediately collapsed and gave hostages for future good conduct. The quarrel between the Hasan Khel and Aka Khel was settled on the basis of an increase in their share of the pass allowances, in consideration of which they agreed to surrender their claim to a tract of land called Kalam-Sada lying at the northern end of the pass, which had been the subject of dispute between the Hasan Khel, the Aka Khel, and on the strength of a traditionary title with those Mohmands also who are settled in the south-western corner of the Peshawar district. There is nothing more to record in respect of the Kohat pass or our relations with the Adam Khel Afridis till 1876. In that year complications broke out with the pass men, which gradually extended to other sections and led to some years of disquiet and trouble on the Peshawar and Kohat borders. It was believed that the time had come for taking measures to improve the road through the Kohat pass, which then (as now) was simply a track in the stony and uneven bed of a glen, from the crest of the pass near Kohat to the point where it debouches on to the plain in the Peshawar district. There were grounds to expect that the Afridis would offer little or no opposition to the undertaking, which was as much in their own interest as in that of Government. Events, however, falsified anticipations.

The Sheraki section of the pass men led the opposition. The Jirga refused to listen to the Government demands; insulted Government messengers; and on the 7th of February 1876 it became necessary to close the pass. Hostilities on the part of the Afridis at once commenced in the usual manner. Night attacks and raids were made on British territory, cattle were carried off, and towers on the crest of the pass, which were in the charge of Jawaki and Orakzai levies, were burnt on the 16th February. Early in August the Jawakis were punished for their remissness in permitting the tower entrusted to their care to be taken, and in allowing thieves to pass through their territory, by a heavy fine which they paid and remained neutral until the termination of the quarrel. In August 1876, the Hasan Khel and Zakka Khel were also included in the blockade. The Hasan Khel, however, soon became weary of the hostile attitude they had assumed, and consented to the construction of a road through the Hasan Khel section of the pass, the payment of compensation for all offences committed since the commencement of the blockade, and the payment of a suitable fine. In February 1876 their submission was accepted. The collapse of the pass Afridis soon followed, and in March of the same year they agreed to the improvement of the rocky portion of the road north of the crest of the pass under Government supervision, the surrender of all property belonging to British subjects, and the payment of a fine of Rs. 3,000. Since then the pass has remained open.

In the summer of 1883, when the duty on salt from the Kohat Mines was raised, the pass men refused to permit salt which had paid the enhanced duty, to go through their pass; at the same time professing to keep it open for other articles of trade. This, however, could not be tolerated, and they were informed that as soon as the passage of salt through the pass was hindered their allowances would be stopped. Thereafter the matter lay in their hands; but that on no account would Government consent to the partial closure of the pass for any commodity or individuals. Opposition to the views of Government immediately disappeared, revealing the weakness of the position taken up by the pass men, and at the present moment, 1888, the traders in salt make use of the pass without let or hindrance. The expedition against the Jawaki Afridis in 1877-78 is a branch of the Kohat pass complication of the previous year. Its origin was due to the discontent of the Jawakis at an apprehended reduction of their share in the Kohat pass allowances, and at the transfer of the management of their tribe to Nawab Bahadar Sher Khan, with whom some of the leading Jawaki Maliks were at bitter feud. The feeling in the tribe showed itself in a series of attacks upon British territory, the most noticeable of which were an attack on a convoy of mules under military escort on the 20th August 1877, and the surprise of a party of sepoys at Shahkot in the Peshawar district on the 25th October 1877, in which 14 men were killed and wounded. As a sudden raid conducted by troops of the Kohat garrison on the 30th August 1877 proved of no effect, a combined expedition by columns from Peshawar and Kohat was undertaken in the winter of 1877-78.

The strength of the forces that were employed put all hope of any effective opposition on the part of the Jawakis, as well as of assistance on part of their kinsmen in the Adam Khel, out of the question. The Jawaki country was traversed and mapped from end to end, no serious difficulty was encountered in the course of the expedition except such as arose from the bad roads and worse weather, and after a hostile occupation of their country, which lasted from the 3rd December 1877 to the 23rd January 1878, the tribe submitted, paid a fine of Rs. 5,000 and surrendered some arms. Since then our relations with the Jawakis have been on the whole satisfactory. The numbers of the forces employed in this expedition appears out of all proportion to the resistance that had to be overcome, but there is no doubt that the display of strength was then (i.e., before the Afghan war) a politic measure and served to impress the Adam Khel with the power of Government contributing materially to their good conduct during the war and since. The opening of the Swat Canal has thrown open a large area of hitherto uncultivated country to the hungry clans on the hills, and numbers of the Adam Khel, especially men of the Ashu and Hasan Khel sections, have carne down and settled in the Yusafzai plain. At present our relations with the Adam Khel tribe are satisfactory, and in view of the large numbers of men of this tribe who serve in the army and police, who trade in British territory, or who have settled in the Peshawar and Kohat districts, our connection with them is more intimate than with any other frontier tribe of the Peshawar Division.

Next in order westwards after the Adam Khel comes the great Orakzai tribe, said to number 25,000 fighting men. The only quarter where it borders on British territory is the Kohat district, and were this tribe united and capable of joint intelligent action it would be a most formidable factor in the politics of the Kohat frontier. But the tribe is split into a mass of small clans, each of whom pursues its own course; it is divided by far-reaching political and religious differences; many of its sections are located in the recesses of Tirah, whence they emerge only to satisfy their simple wants in the markets of Kohat and Miranzai, and except when an advance up the Kuram valley brings the Orakzai into prominence because they flank and can thus threaten the then line of communication, our relations with them are of comparatively small political importance.

The first occasion on which we came into serious contact with this tribe was in 1855, during the course of the Miranzai expedition. The slight punishment which they then received was, however, insufficient to check predatory instincts that had been freely indulged during the confusion prior to the annexation of Kohat and the introduction of a firm and settled government, and in the autumn of the same year the constant raids and robberies of the Rabbia Khel necessitated a small expedition for their punishment. In spite of the very difficult nature of the ground to be traversed, the object of the operations was successfully attained, and for thirteen years there was comparative peace on the Orakzai border. In 1868 complications arose with the Daulatzai section, and more especially with the Bazoti clan thereof. In the spring of that year some skirmishes occurred at the Uhlan pass leading into Bazoti territory between our troops and the Orakzai, which were followed by a blockade. Owing to the insignificance of the tribes and their independence of British territory for their actual wants, the blockade had small effect, till in February 1869 a Bazoti village was destroyed by a sudden attack from Kohat. This shook the confidence of the tribe, and in April they submitted, paying a fine of Rs. 1,200.

From 1869 to 1878 our relations with the Orakzai tribe were fairly good; in 1870, 1873 and 1874, different sections paid fines for various acts of misconduct, and till the commencement of the Afghan war the state of the frontier may be said to have been normal. In November 1878 there was much excitement among the Sunni clans, and the Ali Sherzai, Ali Khel Akhel and Mamozai sections committed themselves to various acts of hostility. Retribution was being prepared for them, but intimidated by the rapid success of the Zaimusht expedition in 1879, the Ali Sherzai and Mamozai made their submission. Subsequently, in 1880, the Ali Khel and Mamozai were guilty of two serious raids upon the line of communication between Kohat and Thal. Various fines were imposed for these acts which, although they did not seriously threaten the line, were still sufficiently annoying and involved expense in the way of protective measures. At the close of the war the total of the outstanding fines amounted to Rs. 15,200, of which part has since been realised.

The chief difficulties in dealing with the Orakzai lie in the inaccessible nature of their country, the remoteness of their settlements, and independence of British territory for their wants; they cannot be surprised and do not feel a blockade, and last, but perhaps not least, in their being often the tools of the complicated factions and intrigues of those within our border, whose social position and location far from Kohat removes them from immediate supervision and control. Like their neighbours the Afridis, the majority of the Orakzai are nomads, descending to the warmer valleys and plains near our border and the Kohat pass in winter, and ascending to the cool glens and forests of Tirah in summer. In their customs and manners and their political constitution, their speech and appearance, they differ little from the Afridis, with whom they have probably a cognate origin. From one point of view they are an interesting race. A few of their clans, notably the Mani Khel, are Shias by religion, the other Orakzai being Sunnis. It is not improbable that the so-called Shias are descendants of followers of the notorious Bayazid, the Pir Roshan or Pir Tarik, who temp., Akbar Shah, Emperor of Delhi, preached heretical doctrines (apparently of Yazidi tendencies, involving a community of women and of property) in the Peshawar valley and Tirah, raised a mighty following and defeated several Mughal armies; not till after his death was the Peshawar valley cleared of his sect, which gradually disappeared in the hills. It is not impossible that these curious islands of Shia clans, here and in Kuram, in the midst of a Sunni country are a relic of the Jariki sect, which in antagonism to the surrounding population has adopted Shia tenets rather than give in to Sunni enemies. There is a standing blood-feud between the Sunni and Shia Orakzai, which every autumn works up into a war of extermination. The Shias can always hold their own in their fastnesses, and after some mutual killing of men the gatherings disperse. This is an annual custom which is, or rather was, much encouraged by the late Mullah Wali Khan of Bagri, the leading Orakzai mullah, partly to gratify his bigotry and partly to enhance his influence and renown among the clansmen. There is no doubt that this civil war weakens the tribe as a whole and exhausts its energy, which may account to some extent for the insignificant value of the Orakzai in border politics in spite of their large numbers and unassailable habitations in the highlands of Tirah.

Next in order to the Orakzai comes the Zaimusht tribe, which marches with the Kohat frontier from Togh in the Miranzai valley to Thal. The Zaimusht inhabit a rough and difficult country, which may be described as a triangle, having its apex at Thal and its base along the rugged Lawaghar range. This tract is traversed by several sterile and rocky-hill ranges and seamed with ravines and defiles. The tribe lives scattered in hamlets that are dotted in the hollows and glens where a little level ground gives space for cultivation. The tribe is said to number 3,500 fighting men. They are Sunni in religion, mountaineers of fine physique and uncouth manners. The tribe is split into two great factions, corresponding to their geographical position, and the eastern and western Zaimusht have been at feud for the past forty years. For a long time after annexation the tribe gave little trouble, although they were implicated in the hostilities that led to the Miranzai expedition of 1855, in the course of which they came into collision with British troops and suffered a defeat which, till the outbreak of the Afghan war, sufficed to keep them quiet. The general excitement observed among the border clans during the first phase of the war was also noticeable among the Zaimushts, who raided during 1879 with much persistence. The principal offences of which they were guilty were a raid on the Gandior serai in March of that year, the murder of Dr. Smythe in June, an attack on a party of furlough men of the 5th Punjab Infantry, and in September the murder of Lieutenant Kinlock. Hostile operations in Afghanistan for a time delayed the punitive expedition which the Zaimusht so richly deserved. Eventually, on the 8th December, General Tytler with a force of about 8,000 men moved into their territory; it was overrun as rapidly as was possible with the very intricate nature of the country, and on the 14th their stronghold of Zawo, deemed by them impregnable, was taken. Before, however, the objects set before the expedition could be all attained, among them being also the punishment of clans of the Lashkarzai Orakzai who had joined the Zaimusht in misconduct, the condition of affairs at Kabul demanded the recall of the expeditionary force. It reached Thal on the 23rd December. As a matter of fact almost all that the expedition had been required to do was accomplished. The Zaimusht had been thoroughly humbled and punished, the Ali Sherzai and Mamozai Orakzai made their submission and promised to pay a fine of Rs. 4,000 each, giving hostages for the payment of the amount, and the future safety of the road from Kohat via Thal to Kuram was ensured. Since then the Zaimusht have given no trouble.

It would be beyond the scope of this note to give a brief account of the Kuram valley, its inhabitants and our relations with them, which is perhaps more properly included in a frontier gazetteer.

At Thal the British Frontier line takes a sudden turn to the south and east; the bay of Independent Territory thus formed between the Kohat and Bannu districts is part of the country occupied by the great Waziri tribe. Clans belonging to the Darwesh Khel section inhabit the lands adjoining the border of the Kohat district, of whom the Kabul Khel are principally concerned with Kohat. It would unduly lengthen the present note to give a general account of the Waziris which is more suitable in a gazetteer of the Bannu or Dera Ismail Khan district. It will be enough here to give a short history of the dealings of the Waziris with the Kohat district. Our relations with the Kabul Khel during the first few years following upon the annexation of the Punjab were not satisfactory. Constant raiding occurred, till in 1854 the Waziris (Kabul Khel) were prohibited from trading at the Salt Mines of Kohat, and seizures of their trading parties were made. The tribe thereon returned all stolen property, and for a time was better behaved. In 1855 disputes between our village of Thal and the Kabul Khel led to a demonstration by the Miranzai field force which brought about a reconciliation of the people of Thal and the Waziris. No further misconduct occurred till 1857, when a gang of Hati Khel Ahmadzai Wazir (who found refuge with the Kabul Khel) murdered Captain Mecham. As the Kabul Khel refused to make restitution for this outrage, a force of over 5,000 men was moved against them in the winter of 1859-60; their country was traversed with but little opposition, and the Ahmadzai and the Kabul Khel made their submission. The principal of the murderers of Captain Mecham was surrendered by the tribe and was duly hanged. The next occasion on which friendly relations with the Darwesh were interrupted was in 1869 owing to quarrels of the Turi Khel with Thal; on the arrival of a force from Kohat, however, the tribe immediately submitted and paid a fine of Rs. 2,000. Nothing further occurred till 1874, when the Miami division of the Kabul Khel clan robbed a caravan in British territory. A small force moved out from Kohat, and a speedy settlement was effected. Matters then remained quiet till the outbreak of the Afghan war. A convoy route was then opened direct from Bannu to Thal through the independent territory held by the Darwesh Khel, and for a time the system worked very successfully.

In March 1880 however it had to be closed owing to excitement caused by the preaching of a local mullah. The outcome of the fanatical movement was a raid on a Turi caravan near Thal in March 1880; in April a Khattak labour camp on the road near Thal was attacked; in the same month the Chapri post was surprised and Lieut. Wood was killed. Petty raids continued to be made, till in October 1880 a force under General Gordon made a sudden attack from Thal on the Kabul Khel and Malik Shahi Waziris. The surprise was effectual; a large number of prisoners and cattle were taken, and a fine of Rs. 13,200 was realised from the two sections. A few raids occurred in 1881, but in 1882 a satisfactory settlement was effected, and since then there has been no trouble.